What a joy the pregnancy period brings not only to the expectant woman but to the larger family as well. It is a period that exudes a certain glow and grace that is admired by most and that makes the journey even more beautiful. The most terrific moment of all, is knowing what awaits after the 9 months is a tiny bundle of joy that one can not wait to hold in their arms for with every childbirth, a mother is born and there could never be a better and fulfilling title as that.
Regardless of the weight gain, puffy face, enlarged nose, stretch marks, swollen legs, morning sickness, crazy cravings and binge eating experienced during pregnancy, the motherhood journey still remains a precious moment to behold.
Then comes the delivery date and every mother’s expectation is a healthy bouncing baby to signify a bundle a gift from God. Anxiety kicks in especially for the primigravida (first-time mothers) because they are left wondering what they are to do with such a tiny human being. But all in all, they get their footing and everything falls into place.
The question however remains, is the nutrition of the mother and baby right from the conception period all through to their second birthday? Are the multigravida mothers getting it right with nutrition or is the status quo of their common practices all wrong? It is therefore important to ensure that the first 1000 days of life are keenly looked into as this is a make or break point for any baby.
This is considered as the critical window period from conception to the time the baby is around two years. The period serves as a foundation or basis for optimal growth and development more so neurodevelopment and the immune system.
The critical window period is faced with the challenge of the triple burden of malnutrition; under-nutrition, over-nutrition and the hidden hunger (micronutrients deficiency). The challenge is mostly brought about by food unavailability, poor food preparation practices and lack of nutritional knowledge by the mother or respective caregiver.
It is therefore important to have the right nutrition to ensure proper brain development, physical growth and an improved immune system that will help reduce the susceptibility to diseases that may be irreversible.
The following can be done to improve on maternal and child health;
- Diet diversification to ensure that micronutrients are obtained.
- Adhering to the IFAS (Iron and Folic Acid) supplementation program to avoid any birth defects such as spina bifida.
- Avoiding too much junk or indulgence in unhealthy eating to minimize cases of gestational diabetes or overweight in pregnancy which can result in small babies.
- Healthy snacking in the case of cravings during pregnancy. Snacking can be done with fruits or a handful of nuts.
- Expectant mothers should avoid Vitamin A supplementation during this period so as to avoid any abortions. Supplementation is only done after delivery.
- Pregnant mothers should minimize their tea intake to minimize the risk of abortions as well as iron and calcium deficiency.
- Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.
- The baby must be fed on demand.
- Proper attachment of the baby to the areola to avoid cracked nipples or back strains which may affect the period for exclusive breastfeeding.
- The baby should breastfeed on each breast for 15 minutes. This is to ensure that the baby gets the water (first milk) and proteins, fats, and micronutrients present in the hind-milk.
- In the case of seropositive mothers, with proper medication and adherence to the regimen, exclusive breastfeeding can be done. In the case Exclusive Breastfeeding is practiced, mixed feeding should not be conducted.
- Proper complimentary feeding practices which include;
- Having a 3-day gap between meals to observe for any allergies or irritations.
- Adding oil to the food for absorption and availability of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K contrary to the practice of boiling.
- Adding iodized salt to the food to ensure the availability of iodine for mental development to avoid cases of cretinism which may result in sluggishness in learning.
- Having a balanced diet where proteins and vegetables are available. For proteins, a proper introduction can be done at 8 months this is because at this time the kidneys are developed.
- In the case of porridge, an introduction can be done in the one cereal at a go technique then later combine 2 kinds of cereal to improve on the taste. Beyond that, nutrient-nutrient interactions can occur.
- Feeding the baby after every 2-3 hours.
- Giving the baby treated water and maintaining food hygiene practices to minimize any cases of diseases that contribute to malnutrition (under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies).
- Breastfeeding should still be ongoing since initializing solid foods does not mean breastfeeding stops.
In conclusion, it is important to ensure maternal and child health is well observed for optimal growth and development of the baby. This is because poor maternal health can result in a poorly developed child and in the case of girls, the vicious cycle of malnutrition is passed on from generation to generation. Not only does this add up to healthcare costs, but it affects the development of the nation.